Chevy’s Silverado ZR2 model avoids the macho appearance of competing models.
The 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 presents a new option for aspiring pilots. The Bowtie brand sat on the sidelines for a long time while Ford and later Ram soaked up the staggering demand for high-priced 4×4 specialties. Now, though, they want in—with a twist. Taking cues from the ZR2 strategy that proved so well with the mid-size Colorado pickup, Chevy’s Silverado ZR2 model avoids the macho appearance of competing models while keeping engine power within acceptable levels for the rest of the Chevy truck lineup.
Is there a sweet spot for off-road monster construction? It’s easy to assume that caricature is the norm when purchasing a mega-muscled mud machine in a world where trucks like the Ford F-150 Raptor R and the Ram 1500 TRX demolish trails and dunes with their plus-size proportions and scary horsepower.
The final product is one of just three contemporary full-size trucks that are at home both on the street and ripping down a dry wash. Although the Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 arrives late to the party, the truck’s eagerness to shake things up by changing the rules of the game should win over more than a few skeptics of the full-on gonzo approach.
The Silverado ZR2 stands apart from the Raptor and TRX in many significant ways that are immediately apparent at first glance. Chevrolet has not changed the pickup’s track width while adding new front and rear bumpers, rock rails, and an aggressive interpretation of the company’s freshly redesigned grille and headlamps. The ultra-wide Ford and Ram models stand in sharp contrast to this; their gigantic tires protrude from their fenders like cauliflower ears, held in place by blistering flares.
The Silverado ZR2 makes no attempt to extend the wheel wells beyond the body, and this has consequences beyond the superficial. The ZR2 is on average 6 inches narrower than its competitors, making it simpler to handle traffic, tight parking lots, and off-road passages dug through rock or wood. Despite the two-inch elevation, the pickup’s body is not built to take rubber any bigger than 33 inches, which is smaller than the typical 35-inch pieces offered by Ford and Ram (with the Blue Oval also making 37-inch tires an option).
To top off the Silverado’s new ZR2 trim level, Chevrolet has just introduced a design update that brings several upgrades to the truck. The low-rent inside of the revised 2020 Silverado received much criticism, thus a comprehensive overhaul resulted in noticeable, positive modifications to the vehicle’s cabin. The ZR2’s infotainment and gauge displays, in particular, have been upgraded to appear and feel on pace with those of other full-size competitors.
Pronounced “Drive-train,” “Shocks,” and “Exotic”
The Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 has the same 6.2L V8 engine and 10-speed automatic gearbox as the rest of the Chevrolet lineup. This motor produces 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. The test vehicle I had was equipped with the optional cat-back exhaust system, which gave it one of the loudest cold-start characteristics I’ve heard in recent memory, as well as a continual auditory threat that was always within reach of the right foot.
That Chevrolet crippled its off-roader instead of equipping it with a full-bore V8 engine serves as more evidence that there is a plan behind the madness. The Silverado maybe half a second slower to 60 miles per hour compared to the base Raptor, but the trade-off is a vehicle that doesn’t seem utterly out of control every time you floor the gas. Trying to keep up with those other roided-out thugs on a daily basis is a pain in the neck, and the Silverado’s tame demeanor may be attributed in no little part to its adequate but underwhelming powertrain.
The ZR2’s spool-valve shock system is another contributor to the car’s pleasant demeanor. The DSSV configuration, developed by Multimatic and originally installed on the Colorado ZR2 and Camaro Z28, sidesteps the common problems associated with external reservoir designs, eliminating spongy rides on the street without compromising off-road performance or longevity. When compared to other full-size off-road competitors, the Silverado ZR2 is light years more enjoyable to drive.
Front and rear locking differentials that can be engaged from inside the vehicle’s cabin help the DSSV dampers achieve their goals of traction and control, as does the ‘Terrain’ driving mode, which automatically applies the brakes to slow the vehicle down for more precise control in challenging conditions. To avoid a costly tow back to base after an accident, a full skid plate has been installed beneath.
Its reduced bumper length and 11 inches of ground clearance allow for an approach angle of 31.8 degrees, a break-over angle of 23.4 degrees, and a departure angle of 23.3 degrees, all of which are on par with those of full-size rivals. With the accelerator fully depressed, the vehicle’s 9.8 inches of front suspension travel and 10.6 inches of rear suspension travel work together to cushion the blow.